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Canning and Seed Collecting

With the growing season winding down, we’d like to continue to look at how to preserve the year’s harvest.  Canning is a great option for keeping a wide range produce; you can make jellies and jams, pickles, sauces, salsas, chutneys, even condiments, and they’ll store for years.

We’ll also briefly discuss seed collecting, so you can get a head-start on preparing for next spring.

 

A basic canning primer

First, you’ll need your canning materials:

  • A large stock pot with lid
  • A round rack that fits inside the stock pot (you can also use a clean dish rag, this is to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot and help water flow around the jars)
  • Mason jars (quart, pint or half-pint)
  • A wide-mouth jar funnel
  • Jar tongs
  • Regular tongs

Start by determining what you're going to be canning and gather your ingredients.  There’s a multitude of recipes online, and the Ball website is one of many fantastic resources for tried and true recipes: http://www.freshpreserving.com/home

You’ll start by sanitizing your jars as well as the rings and lids. Place the number of jars needed for your recipe into your large stock pot then cover and fill them with water, and bring it to a boil.  The rings and lids can go into a smaller pot of water and brought to mild simmer.

While your jars are heating up you can prepare your recipe.

Once you’re finished making your recipe and after the pot has come to a full boil, you can carefully remove the hot jars using the jar tongs, pouring the water from the jars back into the stock pot, then place them on a clean surface to air dry for a minute or so.

Fill the jars with your product using your clean wide-mouth funnel. Your recipe should tell you how high to fill your jars, but in most cases you’ll be leaving a 1/2 or a 1/4 inch of headspace at the top.

Wipe down the lip of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel. Then use the regular tongs to grab the lids and rings and screw them on tightly– you’ll want a clean dishrag here since the jars and rings will still be hot.

Lower the jars back into the large stock pot with your jar holder.  If the water level is too high, you can remove some with a heat proof measuring cup.  Return the pot to a boil, cover and start your timer depending on the recipe.

Once they’ve had the necessary time, remove the jars from the pot and let cool at room temp on a dishtowel.  Pretty soon the lids should start popping– letting you know that the vacuum seal is taking effect.  Let the jars continue to cool to room temp, then store away until you’re ready to use. If any of your jars don’t seal, you can still refrigerate them and use immediately.

 

Collecting seeds

There are many seed types that can be saved, which is a good way to save money and keep your favorite varieties.  To save, separate the seed from the chafe or fruit, then let the seeds dry in a warm, well ventilated room.  You can then store the seeds in a dark, cool room in jars or other small containers.
 
Note that hybrids and plants that have been cross pollinated may not yield the same variety.
 
A few great vegetables seeds to save include beans, peas and lettuce, also tomatoes, eggplant and peppers (as long as they haven’t been cross-pollinated).
 
Some good flowers include calendula, cleome, morning glory, poppy and marigolds, all of which are easy to collect once the flower is mature.
 
To collect seed from veggies or flowers, let the fruits or flowers mature fully, but don’t let flower seeds drop to the ground before collecting them.
 

Collect seeds on a dry day, carry small plastic bags with a marker and collect seeds from flowers by placing the dried flower head or fruit into the bag, and always be sure to label all your seeds clearly.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s blog! Next time we’ll start looking at how to use the greenhouse in the colder months.

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